DSHS gets more money to families who need it most through new child support payment law
Norah West, DSHS Media Relations Manager
OLYMPIA — Starting this month, families who need it most may see a boost in the amount of child support they receive. The Department of Social and Health Services is implementing a law passed during the 2020 legislative session related to what are known as “pass-through” payments.
Pass-through payments are funds disbursed to households where the person receiving child support also receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or cash assistance. These payments are a maximum of $50 for one child or $100 for households with two or more children on the TANF grant.
“This important policy enhancement will make a positive financial difference for a significant number of Washington’s families where the Division of Child Support is able to collect some or all of the current support that is owed,” explained David Stillman, Assistant Secretary for DSHS’ Economic Services Administration, which manages child support as well as public assistance programs.
Second Substitute Senate Bill 5144, which went info effect Feb. 1, 2021, reinstated the pass-through payments. The law requires DSHS to pass through a portion of child support collections if the person receiving child support also receives TANF and child support payments are received that same month. Prior to pass-through, any child support payments received for households that also receive TANF went towards offsetting the cost of that TANF assistance to the state and federal government. Two divisions of DSHS’s Economic Services Administration — the Community Services Division, which administers TANF, and the Division of Child Support — are collaborating to implement the new law.
“The child support pass-through is one of many ways we can help families work towards economic stability,” said DSHS Division of Child Support Director Sharon Redmond. “The Division of Child Support is proud to partner with the Community Services Division and play an important role in DSHS’ commitment to ending poverty.”
Passing this portion of child support payments through to families who receive TANF increases their ability to pay unexpected bills and have funds available to support the foundational needs of children. Receiving pass-through payments will not impact a family’s TANF grant amount. Although pass-through could slightly reduce a family’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Basic Food assistance, the overall amount of assistance a family receives would go up with pass-through. For example, a parent and two-child household who pays $100 in rent and heating costs with no other income, expenses or deductions would see a $45 decrease in food if they received $100 in child support pass through; however, in the same scenario, if the parent was paying $200 rent they would see no decrease in food benefits.
“These pass-through payments will get more money to families, and right now every bit makes a difference,” said Babs Roberts, DSHS’ Community Services Director. “This bill provided a tremendous opportunity for us to collaborate and continue supporting Washingtonians to stay the course.”
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring, the Community Services Division has seen a 27% increase in TANF applications and a 44% increase in SNAP or Basic Food assistance applications from 2019, clear signs that families need support now more than ever.
Families who already receive child support payments via direct deposit will automatically receive these essential payments into that account; otherwise, payments will be mailed to families on a VISA debit card called the DCS ReliaCard. Families were sent a mailer explaining the full details of the payments.
For more information and for questions about child support, call 800–442-KIDS (800–442–5437) or visit www.childsupportonline.wa.gov. For questions about your public assistance benefits, call 877–501–2233 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.